Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Monday, June 23, 2008

    All over the country students are graduating. Graduating from college, graduating from high school... and a type of graduation that always confused me—8th grade graduation. I never understood the concept, especially when I noticed 8th grade graduations normally happen at urban schools, or more specifically, black schools.

    I attended black and white public schools but it wasn't till the ninth grade that a friend told me, "I cried so hard at 8th grade graduation!" I had attended a white public middle school.

    "You had a graduation for the 8th grade?" I asked, thinking 8th grade is just like going from any other grade to another. Why a graduation?

    "Yeah, we had a cap and gown and everything. I'm glad we had an 8th grade graduation because I know a lot of people won’t make it through high school." Ironically, my friend was one of those people who didn’t go past the tenth grade. To this day he will say, “Well, I did graduate from the 8th grade.”

    There is nothing wrong with celebrating someone completing a school year, but a full graduation ceremony from the 8th grade, for a time period where your grades don't even count for college, is bizarre to me. I only know of urban schools that have this 8th grade graduation. Not saying no suburban schools on the planet do this, but it’s mainly an urban/black phenomenon. I called many friends who went to suburban middle schools and they said they never had a graduation ceremony for the 8th grade.

    Does this pseudo graduation give people a sense that if you don't make it to high school “at least” you graduated from the 8th grade? One of my dear friends who had an eighth grade graduation told me, “My parents made it clear that high school graduation was the real graduation so the idea of dropping out was actually a foreign concept to me. It wasn't until I had friends and cousins not make it through high school that I started to re-evaluate that idea of 8th grade graduations.”

    I believe 8th grade graduations assist in mediocrity and lowering the expectations that many feel plague our community. Also, it signals that the administration has lowered its expectations, “Well, they might not make it to the 12th grade so let's do it early!"

    Is giving a child credit for a requirement really inspiring youth to make it to their high school graduation? Like Chris Rock said, "Niggas always want some credit for what they supposed to do. A nigga will brag up some shit a normal man doesn't, 'I take care of my kids!' You supposed to you dumb m*th*rf*ck*r! 'I ain't ever been to jail!' What you want a cookie?" That’s how I feel about 8th grade graduation… why give someone a cookie for what they should be doing when the journey is far from over?

    I am not arguing that an 8th grade graduations is the sole reason why the high school drop-out rates are astronomical for blacks/Latins in urban schools. Nonetheless, it’s still a concept that has always confused me and I’ve never seen any discussions on it.

    For anyone who has a sister, brother, child, niece, nephew, cousin, etc. who is exiting the 8th grade—can you let them know 8th grade isn’t different than any other grade. Get your ass through high school and go to a real graduation! If you want to inspire the kids to graduate, hell, skip their 8th grade graduation and have them attend a college graduation in your local town!

    Check out the clip from Chris Rock, his rant starts at 2:30.

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    Posted by Clay :: 9:43 AM :: 21 comments

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